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Iraq PM retracts support for Obama, but damage done
Published: Sunday July 20, 2008

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hasn't endorsed any candidate or their plan for troop withdrawals, a government spokesman said a day after a magazine quoted Maliki as supporting Barack Obama's withdrawal timeline, Bloomberg reported.

Although al-Maliki supports a "general vision" of American troop withdrawal from his country, the prime minister has not backed Obama's plan for a 16-month timeline, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The official said German magazine Spiegel had "misunderstood and mistranslated" al-Maliki when it quoted the prime minister as supporting Obama's plan, but the magazine questioned why the spokesman did not point out what exactly had been misunderstood or mistranslated and called the prime minister's retraction "half-hearted."

According to Spiegel, al-Maliki said of Obama's plan, "That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of changes."

The prime minister never made an outright endorsement of the candidate himself in the article, saying "who they choose as their president is the Americans' business."

"But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited."

The prime minister may wish to retract his statements supporting Obama, but for many, especially the McCain campaign, the damage has been done.

"There's just no way that all three of these passages were mistranslated," Kevin Drum wrote in the The Washington Monthly. "There's really no way to spin that away."

Time Magazine's Joe Klein shared the opinion that the McCain campaign would be hard pressed to overturn the major win Maliki's support, however short-lived, has given Senator Obama.

"In the U.S., this is all bad news for the McCain campaign. Yes, McCain was right about the Surge, but that is a small, tactical truth too complicated to be understood by most Americans. Maliki Endorses Obama Withdrawal Plan is a headline everyone can understand."